More catchup

I suppose playing less Destiny frees me up to play other games every now and then.

Alwa’s Awakening is a solid game supposedly inspired by Battlekid – I haven’t really played that but I have played more than my fair share of challenging platformers, and this is really nice. It’s far from the first game to only show you one screen at a time, but it uses the format really well to create distinct room-sized challenges. It has some frustrating checkpoint placement and challenges that seem to be more about trolling the player than providing interesting gameplay, but overall it is a very well crafted experience with interesting opportunities for sequence breaking and not too obscure secrets.

Shantae – Half-Genie Hero, the first Shantae started as a straight-up Metroidvania and the series has pretty much been moving away from that since. Well, the second one was much like the first but the third abandoned much of the open-world exploration for gimmicks and this fourth throws it out altogether and just has some five levels that you’re meant to replay over and over until you find everything. Structurally, it’s closer to some of the later Megaman games where some levels have some gimmick gameplay or autoscroller element to mix it up a bit. Art-wise it’s as beautiful as ever and the tone flips between self-referentially silly and oddly earnest just like in the prior games, but it’s a bit difficult to see if Wayforward intends for Shantae to have a gameplay identity and if so what that is.

BOOR is a short story-based platformer with some light puzzles and some not-quite-so-light reflex challenges – it is occasionally trolling with its interleaving finicky challenges with drawn-out ones with no checkpoints in between, and the bosses are all endurance fights that last longer than necessary but it is overall a nice-looking game that sets the mood really well and usually keeps the challenge level reasonable.

Posted on Feb 16/17 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian sometimes feels surprisingly straightforward for a game in development for so long – it is essentially the maneuvering around a large creature from Shadow of the Colossus combined with the puzzle-solving area traversal and escort mechanics of Ico. Aesthetically it is very close to both of them. Now, obviously there are major technical difficulties in creating a digital creature that is not only believable, but also plays nice with all of the game’s other mechanics – and there’s no mean feat that team Ico did it as well as they did.

Much like their other two games, the Last Guardian is unapologetic about hitting the emotional target before anything else – considering that the emotional target in this case is cooperating with a creature that doesn’t quite understand you and doesn’t always like you this will occasionally make for some interesting gameplay. Trico will rarely do exactly what you want him to do in a given situation, and it is never quite clear why he is able to squeeze into some spaces, reach to certain platforms or jump over certain chasms but not others. Even though the game is very linear and fairly simple it often becomes problematic to figure out where to go next, and the solution is frequently leading Trico around the room until he reacts to something.

Now, the interesting part is that it feels believable – Tricos animation and behavior never fails to sell his personality. Even when he started to backtrack or repeat himself he always did so in a plausible manner. If his artificial intelligence fails, it just looks like he got distracted by something offscreen. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to go next, the alien wonder of the world you’re in helps sell the feeling that the main character doesn’t know what’s going on either.

It’s still frustrating, but it’s difficult to chalk it up to the game not being intuitive enough. And I’ll take a game that dares to try something difficult and fails any day.

Posted on Feb 14/17 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »